Complementary therapy clinic in Oxford

Acupuncture for hay fever and other allergies (by Kate Macalister, 2018)

If you’re anything like me, you spent the whole of February and especially March praying for the start of Spring – and at long last, I think we can say that Spring has indeed finally sprung, judging by the blossom in my neighbour’s garden.

However, according to weather forecasters, the price that we are paying for such a cold snap followed by a sudden heat wave, is that everything has come into flower at once, meaning that this year’s pollen counts are going to be extremely high.  Suddenly, thoughts turn from woolly jumpers to how to survive the next few months with a blocked nose, pounding sinuses, throbbing head, sore throat and itchy eyes.  Whilst acupuncture is well known for its painkilling properties and being able to help anything from joint problems to headaches & migraines, it’s less well known that acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory mechanism makes it a great weapon against the horrors of hay fever (1).  Whilst many people will reach for their usual antihistamine tablets, painkillers and nasal sprays, these can help symptoms, but commonly bring with them a dose of side effects as well.  Nasal sprays can cause a worsening of symptoms in time (rebound congestion) (2); taking regular painkillers for headaches can similarly cause rebound headaches (3); and depending on the type of antihistamine, they commonly either give you drowsiness and difficulty concentrating, or conversely headache, dry mouth and nausea (4).


There’s been plenty of research into acupuncture to ease allergy symptoms.  The results of a trial were published in the journal Allergy in 2013.  Patients’ symptoms of hay fever were measured with a Total Nasal Symptom Score (TNSS).  Acupuncture was compared with a group receiving sham acupuncture and another group receiving no treatment, and acupuncture was found to significantly outperform both the sham and no treatment group in reducing the TNSS scores of patients.  Importantly, acupuncture was found to be safe with an extremely low incidence of adverse side effects (5).  In 2008, 5,237 patients were randomly assigned to receive either 3 months of regular acupuncture or no treatment.  Patients completed a Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ) and a general health-related Quality of Life questionnaire.  After 3 months, the scores of the acupuncture patients on allergy symptoms and general health had improved to a clinically significant degree compared to the non acupuncture group, and improvements were continuing to be felt a further 3 months after the end of the trial (6).  Similar improvements were found in a study in 2013.  It additionally compared acupuncture only patients, with patients taking antihistamines, and those taking antihistamines plus acupuncture – it was found that there was significant reduction in antihistamine use amongst the acupuncture patients (7).


So, if you or someone you care about is already suffering with allergy symptoms, why not give acupuncture a try?  In the hands of the properly qualified, it’s effective, safe and has a very low incidence of serious side effects (1 in 10,000 (8)).  In addition, unlike medications, the treatment is personalised to you.  We do a personalised diagnosis for you, so if it’s your throat that’s most affected by the allergy, then we target that more during treatment.  In addition, the true beauty of acupuncture is that diagnosis and treatment always consider your health as a whole.  So, we don’t just care about improving your allergy symptoms, in addition we’ll look at your sleep, digestion, emotional health and energy levels, to name but a few items.  If you sleep better, it stands to reason that your body will cope better with the pollen season, as well as everything else that life can throw at you.


Acupuncture is available at The Wellbeing Clinic 6 days a week, so book online or ring 01865 751111 to make an appointment with either myself or one of my colleagues – we look forward to meeting you.



(1) John L. McDonald, Allan W. Cripps, Peter K. Smith, Caroline A. Smith, Charlie C. Xue, and Brenda Golianu, “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 591796, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/591796

(2) WebMD (2018), Decongestants and antihistamines,, accessed 21/04/18

(3) Patient (2018), Medication overuse headaches,, accessed 21/04/18

(4) NHS Choices (2017), Side effects of antihistamines,, accessed 21/04/18

(5) Choi S-M, Park J-E, Li S-S, Jung H, Zi M, Kim T-H, Jung S, Kim A, Shin M, Sul J-U, Hong Z, Jiping Z, Lee S, Liyun H, Kang K, Baoyan L. “A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis.” Allergy 2013; 68: 365–374

(6) B. Brinkhaus, C. M. Witt, S. Jena, B. Liecker, K. Wegscheider, and S.N.Willich, “Acupuncture in patients with allergic rhinitis: a pragmatic randomized trial,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, vol. 101, no. 5, pp. 535–543, 2008

(7) Brinkhaus B, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Roll S, Linde K, Pfab F, Niggemann B, Hummelsberger J, Treszl A, Ring J, Zuberbier T, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. “Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial.” Ann Intern Med. 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34

(8) British Acupuncture Council (2016), Is Acupuncture Safe?,

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